An Innovative Educational Program Utilizing
The Power of Music
To Teach American History And Literature
Thoughts from Lynda Roth, Founder of The Muse Project.
How did we all learn our "ABC's?"
Each of us, whether we could carry a tune or not, learned our alphabet in song. No one told us to memorize A to M this week, N to Z the next. Each of us, whether or not we are accomplished vocalists, can sing and recall the alphabet in this manner.
The basic concept of The Muse Project is that all students, whether or not they are accomplished readers, will engage with and make meaning from difficult, often dry texts if information is presented musically.
America Revealed, The Muse Project's premier program, is not only an effective learning tool, but also an example of aesthetic education in its purest form. Each musical composition stands on its own as art, and as such, inspires imagination and creative response.
After the appropriate material is selected, original texts in American history and literature are set to music. Music based on seminal documents in American history, such as The Declaration of Independence, The Emancipation Proclamation, The Indian Removal Act represents the "vision" of America.
Music based on speeches, writings, and poetry from the Native America tradition, the Women's Movement, the Civil Rights Movement represents the "reality" of America. By studying the documents and literature in class, then engaging the text through music, students discover how the reality of America and the vision of America have impacted one another. They come to understand that the vision of America has had an effect on real people, and these people in turn have altered the vision of America, continually, back and forth over the course of our history.
The music is composed with a complexity to be sung at the secondary and college levels. However, recordings of each piece are effective listening tools in the classroom at all levels; high school, middle school and elementary school down to fifth grade.
The power of music to evoke emotion, illuminate hidden meaning, and elicit contemplative, creative and critical thinking has become increasingly apparent to educators. With America Revealed, we at The Muse Project hope to tap this power.
The Music of America Revealed
Of the composed works recorded (to date, about one fourth of the total), some are modern classical (such as The Gettysburg Address and The 19th Amendment), some are Broadway-esque (The Constitution of the United States), and others sing the blues (Sojourner Truth’s Ain’t I a Woman speech of 1851). Walt Whitman’s Oh Captain My Captain is in simple song form, written for piano and vocals. You Will Go, based on the Indian Removal Act, is a gospel meditation. And Uncle Tom’s Cabin, its lyrics taken directly from the Harriet Beecher Stowe novel, is a contemporary musical; a compilation of eight individual songs, it includes a love balled duet and a classical pavane.
The compositions are rich in meaning and tone. The music more than complements the document or piece of literature; it is integral to its message. For example, in The Declaration of Independence, chorus begins with the men only, since the declaration was written by men, essentially for men; the female choir enters poignantly on the phrase “dissolve the bands."
Below are several pieces from America Revealed:
Preamble to the Constitution of the United States
The Gettysburg Address
Ain't I A Woman
The 19th Amendment to the Constitution
Declaration of Independence (Sample)
You Will Go (Sample)
For more information on Lynda (including her bio and a selection of
professional recordings) as well as a video of her speaking at a Muse Project salon in
which she discusses her thoughts regarding the project, see lyndaroth.com
Questions, comments, or requests for more information can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org